Sunday, September 7, 2008

Triple Jew Part II-It rhymes!

As promised, I’ll try to deal with the phenomenon of disenchantment with Chabad in particular and Judaism in general. I think that the first thing to make clear is that this is not a new phenomenon. The only stories we’re told, and the only people we hear about, are the guys who done good, the Chassidim who did extraordinary things, keeping their faith in the harshest of conditions. We don’t hear about all the people who didn’t quite make it, because why should our collective conscience wish to remember our failures? This is all perfectly natural, and I don’t think it’s blameworthy in any way. Still, I do think the point needs to be made that our generation is no better and no worse than any other. Heck, the Friedriker Rebbe’s grandson not only left Chabad but also tried to take some of it with him. And who will be remembered from our generation? In one hundred years, they’ll recall R’s Cunin, Feller, Shemtov, et all. They won’t recall the shlubs in Crown Heights or in San Fransisco, even if they stayed Frum and did their thing. They certainly won’t remember the kids who left the faith. Lubavitch at this point is big enough that even if one kid from each family goes out and marries a Muslim, everything will be all right, because the average family has four or five kids. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, because every Jew is precious, I’m just saying that I don’t think it would cause Chabad’s extinction.

One of the problems with Chabad is that we’re stuck in a holding pattern. We’re loathe to address any real issues, like this one, because we think that Moshiach is just right around the corner. I’m not saying that he’s not, I’m saying that this thinking is contributing to the problem. The Rebbeim didn’t avoid issues because they thought that they just needed to wait a little longer and everything would be all right; they dealt with the issues, because that’s what a leader has to do. Even when people say that they appreciate this point, they still don’t act on it. Is Moshiach coming? Yes. Does Chabad need to work on its issues? Yes.

Now onto the the particular people I talked about earlier. The first, our scion of great Lubavitch figures, has abandoned the faith of his fathers because he doesn’t believe in the divine origin of the Torah and he’s not interested in keeping its strictures. Which of these two conditions came first I’m not sure. He’s not the type of guy who can be won over by arguments; perhaps if someone offered him a cash settlement to stay frum he’d take it, but other than that, I’m not sure if there’s anything anyone can do about him. Perhaps when he matures, or leaves the fold for a while, he’ll realize what he’s missing, but whether that happens I can’t be sure. It would be patronizing of me to suggest that in some way he is deficient in his knowledge of Judaism; he knows a lot more than me, and all I can say is that if you don’t believe, or don’t want to believe, then that’s all there is to it.

My second friend is questioning his Judaism but trying to make it all work. His faith has been damaged by his unanswered questions. All I’ve been able to tell him is that he needs a Mashpia, a spiritual guide. What else can I tell him? I certainly don’t have the ability to argue him into the perfect faith that is the ideal of our religion. Of course, the Judaism gurus would have you believe that in fact perfect faith is not necessarily the ideal, and I suppose they’re correct. I also know that my friend would rather not have to deal with his issues, but such is his fate, and he must deal with it.
My third friend believes in Judaism, but he doesn’t understand why it’s so obsessed with details. Again, he’s intelligent, and knows all the answers that anyone could give him. All I was able to tell him was that perhaps he should leave Chabad and become Modern Orthodox or something. I think he realized the ridiculousness of my suggestion, which was my intention. He is of the school of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, and will probably not do anything, though he will threaten. At the same time, I never expected to hear him talk the way he did when I spoke to him, so perhaps something interesting will happen. Who knows?

And at the end of the day, maybe everyone is just sowing their wild oats and will come back to the flock later. Or maybe they won’t. And that’s just the way life is.


e said...

I don't think people are neglecting this issue because they think Messiah's coming. I don't think they're neglecting it at all. They're doing what they can, and, as you said, you win some, and you lose some.

Anonymous said...

Maran says that right before moshiach comes, there will be lots of kefirah and atheism. Maran gives one eitzah, which works every time: just remove your mind from these silly thought and connect yourself to the tzaddik, and he will raise you up.

Just like a guy said...

e: Maybe. I suppose so.

Breslover: Raise you up where exactly?

Anonymous said...

the the lord almighty, duh.

Just like a guy said...

Oh, I thought you meant the great big hookah in the sky. Sorry, my bad.

Nemo said...

I particularly take exception to the Breslav way of life ... not necessarily Rav Nachman, whom I haven't studied, but the current them being regurgitated by Breslavers and those that receive their Hafotza.

Basically, forget everything - all your issues, problems, desires - and make Judaism fun for yourself. Thinking is fatal, so just don't think and act "foolish."

Isn't a very sound approach, unless you consider religion a quirky form of entertainment.

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.
The issues raised by your three friends are not unique to Chabad - questions regarding the validity of one's beliefs etc. are common to non-Chabad Jews as well. That said, I believe you make an excellent point - Chabad does not know how to take care of its own. Certainly for those on the "outside" (refer to any small community anywhere in the world) Chabad does an amazing job of returning Jews to their roots. The problem comes once they're back - (to be cyncical) once a man is dressed in a black coat and hat and a woman is wearing some form of headgear, well that's where the system fails. "OK, you're one of us now. Just buy the right meat and Moshiah will take care of the rest." Like in every other human activity, if the opportunity to grow is not available, people soon lose interest. So, I agree with you - Chabad needs to start taking care of its own and to do that it needs to clean up its house!!

Just like a guy said...

Nemo: Actually, I do happen to consider religion to be a great source of entertainment.

LdT: Yup.

Cheerio said...

it's so much easier to do outreach than inreach. with outreach, they're more open minded to learning and growing, or you can brush off their negative attitudes as a result of a misguided upbringing, etc. with inreach, they have defenses built against everything, arguments to counter everything you say. and it hurts a lot more, when you are wondering how the person who sat next to you in class missed out on what gives your life meaning.

e said...

Cheerio, I think you got it backwards.

If you attempt to do outreach on a given non-religious Jew, you are less likely to be successful than if you attempt to do inreach on a given Lubavitcher.

Most Lubavitchers have been brought up from day one (heck, from pregnancy) to buy this whole memeplex called Judaism, making them receptive to inreach). Most non-religious Jews have been brought up to accept completely different mempeplexes (making them unreceptive to outreach).

However, as you noted, more outreach attempts succeed than inreach attempts. This is because outreach is focused only on those who are receptive to it (i.e. those "open minded to learning and growing") but most inreach is directed specifically to those *least* receptive to it (i.e. those with "defenses built against everything, arguments to counter everything you say).

Y'see, sometimes things are the exact opposite of what they seem to be.